Nothing makes a pup happier than special dog treats. Especially if they include bacon, pumpkin and peanut butter. *****
Yesterday was Tuck’s birthday! I can hardly believe that he is already a year old. Tuck is an extra large breed dog, so the puppy phase for him should last until he is around 18 months old. He weighed in today 87.8 lbs, so I’m hopeful that he doesn’t add too much more weight and focuses his attention on maturing. Like maybe stop trying to eat my kitchen cabinets or playing keep away with the remote control? I know, I’m most likely dreaming. He does have his charms though. He is super cuddly, thinks he is a lap dog – yes, at nearly 90lbs, and is everybody’s best friend. How can you resist that face?!
In honor of his first birthday, our friend Cindy brought him a couple of new toys and took him to play in the park. Then we went to the pet store to borrow their scale – I can’t lift him to weigh him at home! – and pick out a new bone. He stuck his nose right in where the big knuckle bones were and wouldn’t let up until I grabbed one. He has only been to the pet store a couple of times before, but he sure knew what he wanted! Between play time with his new toys and chewing time with his new bone, he didn’t nap all day. I for one am grateful, because he is going to sleep well tonight! This morning however, while Tuck was playing with Cindy, I got to work on his favorite dog treats. After all, what’s a birthday with out your favorite dessert?
First things first. Make the bacon. Yep, these dog treats call for 2 1/2 pieces of bacon. You can use a full three strips, but I find that extra half strip tastes best when shared with the dog. For today’s demo, I am making a double batch. A single batch makes about 85 treats. Tuck gets on average 2 a day, so a batch lasts about 6 weeks. By making a double batch, it isn’t too much for my mixer to handle, but it’s enough to last 3 months.
Once the bacon is done, let it cool while you measure out the other ingredients. This dough comes out very thick and heavy, like the oatmeal chocolate cookies my mom used to make. As much as I love getting my hands dirty in the kitchen, it’s not something that I want to tackle by hand and highly suggest using a stand mixer if you have one.
In the bowl of your mixer, using the blade attachment, mix together the egg, milk, pumpkin and peanut butter. Make sure you are using canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. Your peanut butter should be all natural, containing peanuts and salt. The wet ingredients should mix up fairly easy and resemble a thick soup when combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder to combine. Although dogs can digest all purpose flour, whole wheat flour is better for their system and I highly recommend using whole wheat flour in this recipe.
The bacon should be cool to the touch by now. Chop it up into small pieces that can be mixed into the treats. Mix the bacon pieces in with the flour. The flour will stick to the fat and help keep the bacon suspended in the dough. Like what we did with the blueberries in my Blueberry Muffin post. If you add the bacon to the wet mixture the pieces will clump together and sink to the bottom. Trust me, I tried it. Switch to your dough hook and add your flour mixture to your wet mixture, about 1/3 at a time, scraping the sides and mixing completely after each addition.
After the third addition, it should be heavy and sticky. Clear off a section of your counter top large enough to roll out a section of the dough. Wash and dry the surface, then sprinkle on a thin layer of flour. During the next step, you may add around a 1/4 cup of extra flour into the dough. This is a very forgiving dough, but too much or too little flour makes it hard to work with. Kneed the dough (fold it over on itself and turn it 90 degrees, repeat) as you add in extra flour. You will know it’s done when it only slightly sticks to the counter top and barely sticks to your hands. Similar to the consistency of a sugar cookie dough. As you finish kneading, shape the dough into a ball.
Grab a knife and cut the dough ball in halves or quarters. You will notice that the inside will be slightly stickier, but that’s okay. The only reason we do this is that it’s easier to work in smaller batches. With a double batch, I know that 1/4 of the dough will fill one of my baking sheets. With a standard batch you should only need to cut it in half. Set aside all but one of the dough balls and work it into a ball, again adding more flour if it starts to stick. Once it’s ready, set your oven to heat to 325 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment. If you don’t have parchment that’s fine, but I like to avoid any clean up I can on my baking sheets.
For the next step, you will need a rolling pin of some sort. I found this one about a month ago and this is my first opportunity to use it. It’s a marble pin, with fixed handles, and I got it for only $10. Previously, I didn’t own a rolling pin at all. I have used a wine bottle, a straight edged glass, and the wooden holder for an old paper towel rack. The towel rack worked the best and I’m fairly certain it’s still in my kitchen. If you go the route of using a glass, use a thicker one that can handle the pressure. I once broke a glass while rolling out a pie crust. I was in a time crunch and had to start over from scratch again. Not fun.
Starting with the dough ball you just formed, roll it out until it’s between 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. Tuck likes his dog treats to be crisp and crunchy. He told me so by spitting one out that was still soft and chewy. He had a total look of disdain on his face, but happily gobbled up the same treat after it was baked longer. To cut down on cooking time, I try to get Tuck’s treats closer to an 1/8 of an inch. They will puff slightly when baked. If your dog prefers chewier treats, you can make them a bit thicker, but if you go too thick they will take forever to bake. I choose not to use cookie cutters. If you do, you can easily take the leftover dough and rework it into more cookies. I prefer to use a knife and cut his treats into squares, rectangles, or triangles. This week, I chose triangles. If you are working on a surface that shouldn’t be cut into, make sure you don’t use a sharp knife and damage your counter top!
Lay them out on your parchment lined baking sheets. These dog treats will puff up slightly, like the ones above, but they should not spread out. However, don’t crowd them too much, as you will need room to flip them over. I try to get a full batch ready and put both baking sheets in at the same time. For crispy, crunchy treats, bake them for 18 – 20 minutes on each side. For softer, chewier treats, bake them 14 – 16 minutes on each side. After the first side is done, flip the dog treats over and place them back in the oven. You’ll want to move what was the top pan to the bottom and put what was on the bottom on the top. This will help the cookies to cook evenly. Around the time they were ready to be flipped, Tuck was back from his walk and knew what I was up to in the kitchen.
For translation purposes that face is asking: “are they done yet? are they done yet? are they done yet?” He followed me around the kitchen for 10 minutes with that face before I shooed him away so that I could clean up. Trust me, it’s hard to resist that face!
Once the dog treats are fully cooked, lay them out on a cooling rack to cool completely. If you are making a double batch, let them cool while you are getting the second round in the oven.
Since there are no preservatives in these dog treats, I prefer to keep them in the fridge or freezer. I use a quart sized canning jar and fill it up for the fridge. The rest of the treats go into freezer safe zipper bags. When the jar is empty, I simply refill it from the freezer bag and put it back in the fridge. When the freezer bag is empty, it’s time to make more! Knowing how much he likes these dog treats, I don’t think we will ever go back to the store bought version.
Tuck's Favorite Dog Treats
- 2 1/2 strips of cooked bacon
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 TBSP baking powder
- 2 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour plus more for kneading
Heat oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together the egg, peanut butter, pumpkin, and milk.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking soda.
Chop up the bacon into bite sized pieces and combine with the flour mixture.
Switch to the dough hook attachment and gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Add about 1/3 at a time, scraping down the sides and thoroughly combining.
Place the sticky, wet dough onto a floured work surface.
Knead the dough, adding flour as you go. Stop adding flour when the dough stop sticking to the counter and to your hands.
Separate the dough into two sections.
Shape the first section into a ball and then roll out flat to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick.
Using a knife or cookie cutter, cut out the individual treats and place them on the parchment lined baking sheet, being careful not to over crowd them.
Once you are done with the first section of dough, repeat with the second section.
Place both cookie sheets into the oven at the same time, one on top and one on bottom. Cook 14 -16 minutes for softer chewier cookies and 18 - 20 minutes for crisper, crunchier cookies.
Turn each cookie over and return the pans to the oven, swapping the top pan to the bottom and the bottom to the top, then cook an additional 14 -16 minutes for softer chewier cookies or 18 - 20 minutes for crisper, crunchier cookies.
When they are done, cool completely on a cooling rack.
Store up to two weeks in the fridge in an air tight container, or up to 6 months in the freezer.
Have you ever made dog treats for your dog? What is your dog’s favorite flavor of dog treat? Let me know in the comments below!
********************DISCLAIMER: Please consult with your vet before giving your dog homemade treats, especially if they have any type of digestions issues. Not all dogs can eat grains and with whole wheat flour, these cookies are not grain free. Your dog may have other food sensitivities or allergies that you should be aware of whenever trying new dog foods or treats. **************************************